I’ve been on a reading binge the last few weeks. Some of it’s for school, some of it’s for contests and some of it is for pleasure. What I’ve discovered is that I’ve forgotten how important it is to read while you are writing. One of the reasons why is that you will see more in other works when you are writing your own. Oh, I see how he did that there. Interesting how she uses the odd hooks at the beginning and end of the chapter but you still want to turn the page. I don’t like the way they told that story, or I loved it. This one is lovely language. That one is just a darn good story teller.
When you are a writer you can take classes and hone your craft all you want. You should do that. But you also need to read the good and the bad stuff. That’s where you learn structure and, as I mentioned above, what you did and didn’t like. It’s important to analyze why you did or didn’t like a book. That way you can put the good stuff you do like in your book.
I’ve been reading a great deal of science fiction for school. We’re studying how the genre uses allegory to talk about what is going on in society. Alien and Aliens is about motherhood and fighting back against the man. That sort of thing. I read Octavia Butler’s Blood Child and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, both of these books come at motherhood in a different way. Atwood’s book is also about isolationism and what happens when society goes to the extreme. I don’t usually like stories where women are weak, but Atwood’s tale was a page turner. I had to find out why this woman would go through all of this. I will admit Ripley in Aliens is more my kind of heroine, but it was interesting to see this different point of view.
After reading about dystopian, utopian and futuristic worlds, I decided it was time to read The Hunger Game series. I’m glad I did as it going to become a part of the research paper I’m working on for grad school. While it might not seem like it at first, there are themes of nurturing and motherhood in that book too. And I’ve pretty much read all three books over the last few days, even though I have a crazy schedule right now. Yes, that’s why I’m walking around with bags and dark circles under my eyes.
The great thing is reading can open your mind to new possibilities. You could give ten writers the same topic and they would all write something completely different. You can see that in books. Years ago my friend Gena Showalter wrote a book I loved called Stone Prince where a statue came to life. I just read another book called Stone Kissed by Keri Stevens that I loved. In her book this one woman could talk to the statues and they were animated. Two books about statues that come to life, done in completely different ways.
Reading outside of my comfort zone has done wonders for my creativity. Themes are more important to me now. (I’m teaching a class and did a whole section on themes. One of my students re-wrote her query letter stating her theme and she was asked for a full.) I see how having a strong theme through a book can really make it sing. I’ve also come up with several ideas for new books. None of which are anything like I’ve read recently, but were inspired by certain themes I wanted to explore.
So what have you been reading? What book as inspired you?
Tell me, I really want to know.